With five losses on their recent two week exhibition tour of Europe, the Senior Men are looking to begin phase two of the summer session and will likely be facing some critical eyes. Can Ball Ray puts his thoughts and ramblings out on the Senior Men's last fourteen days ...
So the Senior Men are done with their first of two exhibition tours for this summer. But the results are looking a little less than favorable to this point. There were five losses against one win and the basketball loving public have been voicing opinions that have ranged from it's time to start looking for a new coach to it’s time to overhaul the whole organization. And the sentiments are seemingly more than warranted after stumbling through a ten game losing streak that began at last summer’s FIBA World Championships before getting their first W.
So the most important question we needto ask is what can we take away from this first summer set of games?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I’d like to fancy myself an educated, if not astute, observer of the National Team Program and I’m not really sure what to make of this start to the summer. The Senior Men were blasted by France in two games, by an average of 40 points which includes a 62 drubbing might I add, then losing two narrow margin games to Bulgaria and Macedonia before splitting two against the Czech Republic and breaking the streak.
Can we say that this is chalked up to the learning curve or the getting to know the offense phase?
I don’t think it can be that. The team that went over for this round of games is largely the same team that played last summer. Well OK, it really isn’t. Half of the guys from last summer aren’t with the team for this run, including Joel Anthony who was rehabbing/recovering from his NBA season. Vets Carl English and Jesse Young are welcomed back making the core of the team very good and very familiar with each other but English didn't play in any games, if he was with the team. And after watching the camp for a few days, they all seemed to be on the same page more or less so I don't know if this is the whole reason.
Is it the new guys? Are they taking some time to acclimatize to the system and style of play?
Maybe, but the guys that were on the plane over were for the most part the same pieces as last summer only a little more inexperienced. Brady Heslip, Mangisto Arop, Nem Mitrovic, Murphy Burnatowski, Jamie Vanderbeken and Jeffrey Ferguson are all new to the Senior Team but they all fill roles that the guys not playing this summer would usually fill. Guys can shoot the rock, slash to the hole and grab glass and defend low. They have all, with the exception of Vanderbeken and Mitrovic, been in the National Program at some point and have been through the camps so I don't want to place that as the culprit.
Could it be a lack of overall talent with this current team?
I think that this explanation could have some merit but it can't entirely be the reason. Last summer, the only really big names that showed up to play were Joel Anthony and Andy Rautins who were coming off an NBA season and a very good post season NCAA run respectively. The usual suspects that the public clamors for every summer, Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Myck Kabongo and now Andrew Wiggins among otheres, weren’t there last year and the team had a very good showing against China and France, all blowouts may I add, so there was something to the roster before the injuries set in at the wrong time. The talent pool isn't as deep as it should be for sure for our National Team but it seems that they were able to succeed with the parts they had regardless.
So the question begs again, what can we take away from this first set of six games that the patch work Senior Men have played so far?
In my humble opinion, nothing really. Just as everyone last summer was saying that the exhibition wins against France and China on home soil meant nothing, so do these last six games. After some really good games early, the Senior Men were hit with injuries and tanked when it mattered last summer and it torpedoed their chances and respect from the public. Sure, results are a big indicator of success and some would say the only indictor and I will tend to agree. But at this stage in the summer, I’m not going to place that much weight on the last two weeks.
Now don’t get it twisted though. I don’t mean to say that I’m OK with the current results because I’m not. I would still expect there to be a better showing against good teams and wins against lesser teams (read wins over Bulgaria and Macedonia at least). The "happy to be here" time should be over and at this stage of the development of the Senior National Program should be about winning games we should be winning.
Regardless, the final pieces of the puzzle are still being sorted out and that will mean more parts, possibly better ones for this team. The second phase of the Senior Men’s summer will begin in a few days and will be looking to make another run of training camps and exhibition games. Will this run be the definitive indicator, I would say not but we’ll be able to see where this team stands to this point.
This will have to be a wait and see thing now and hopefully we'll like the results in the end.